The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s chaplain was so talkative and longwinded that nobody else could get a word in during a conversation. And though the king looked, he could not find anybody who would interrupt him.
There was a disabled man so skilled at throwing stones that people would wheel him around and pay him to make shapes such as elephants or horses in trees by throwing and cutting the foliage. One day the king saw this man’s work and wondered if he could solve the chaplain problem. The king explained the situation to him and the man said he could do it with a peashooter full of goat dung. So the king brought him to the palace and had him sit behind a curtain with a slit in it. The next time the chaplain came he, as always, completely took over the conversation and the disabled man started shooting tiny pellets down the chaplain’s throat one by one. When the whole load had been unknowingly swallowed, and the goat dung pellets were swelling up in the chaplain’s stomach, the king told his chaplain what had just happened and why he had done it. He then sent the chaplain home with the instruction to take panic seeds to induce vomiting.
After this incident, the chaplain never again spoke during conversations with the king. The king was so grateful he gave the disabled man four villages, making him very wealthy. After all this, the Bodhisatta told the king this was an excellent example of why wise people should try to master a skill.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples was not very serious about his study and practice of dharma. One day after bathing in the river he saw swans flying by and boasted to another disciple that he could kill one by throwing a stone through both of its eyes. After he did it, the other disciple reported him to the Buddha.
The disabled man was an earlier birth of this stone-throwing disciple, and after reprimanding him, the Buddha told this story to explain that he had always had this particular skill.
The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.